China and COVID: New Immigration Developments
The end of China’s “zero COVID” policies and resulting surge of infections in that country has
in two new changes impacting U.S. immigration. First, the U.S. State Department announced last month that all routine visa services at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China are temporarily suspended. Passport and emergency services for U.S. citizens are still available, and limited emergency visa services are available at some posts, but most immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments have been canceled. No estimate has been given as to when routine services will resume. Chinese citizens seeking to apply for U.S. visas may have to wait for an extended time to get a new visa appointment.
Hopefully, the Consular closures in China will indeed be temporary, and we won’t see the year-long closures that were common in the early days of the pandemic. Those extended closures created massive appointment backlogs, which are still causing appointment delays in some countries. But, Chinese travelers in need of U.S. visas may need to make alternate plans. Most U.S. Consulates are once again accepting visa appointments from third-country nationals (i.e., citizens or residents of other countries), but waiting times for outsiders can be significantly longer, as some posts have separate appointment queues for third-country applicants.
The second change is that as of January 5, 2023, any aircraft passenger (including U.S. citizens) travelling to the U.S. from China must present a negative COVID test or proof of recovery from COVID-19. This requirement also applies to anyone who has been physically present in China within the last 10 days, even if they are not traveling directly from China to the U.S. The CDC stopped requiring negative COVID tests from all arriving aircraft passengers back in June 2022, requiring instead that all non-immigrants arriving in the U.S. be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccination requirement remains unchanged, with this new additional testing requirement now in place for travel from China.
In the post-COVID world, travel policies are constantly evolving, so it’s important for international travelers and visa applicants to stay informed. Contact Best Law Offices today if you have questions about these or any other immigration issues!